Mid-season coaching changes are always meant to provide a spark, and that’s exactly what the Los Angeles Chargers got on Sunday from new offensive coordinator Shane Steichen. Just a few days after taking over the play-calling duties from veteran Ken Whisenhunt, who was fired after last week’s 17-16 win over the Bears, Steichen pressed all of the right buttons as the Chargers beat the Packers 26-11 in convincing fashion.
The 34-year-old Steichen had no previous experience calling plays, but with play-calling that was more focused on running the ball than they were under Whisenhunt early in the season, the Chargers found success against the Green Bay defense. Running back Melvin Gordon had no more than 32 yards rushing in his first four games back after his holdout. But on Sunday, he ran the ball 20 times for 80 yards, finding the end zone twice. Backup Austin Ekeler added 70 yards on 12 carries after being an afterthought for large stretches during the team’s first eight games.
“Shane did an outstanding job,” Charges head coach Anthony Lynn said after the game. “I’m always wanting to get involved, but Shane would never have to look over his shoulder when calling plays. He did an outstanding job. I thought he was aggressive when he needed to be aggressive and he did a good job establishing the run when he had to.”
It was far from a perfect performance for the Los Angeles offense, especially in the red zone. The Chargers were forced to settle for four field goals, leading the game 12-0 midway through the third quarter. But with more of a focus on the running game, the Chargers were able to wear down the Green Bay defense and finish off drives in the end zone in the second half while out-gaining the Packers 442 to 184.
It was just one game for the Chargers and their new play-caller. But the win got L.A. to 4-5, putting them within striking distance of both the 6-3 Chiefs at the top of the AFC West and a Wild Card spot. For a team that was 2-5 a couple of weeks ago, the Chargers are once again in the play-off hunt.